West Bengal and 21 February- UNESCO International Mother Language Day

Each year, 21 February is celebrated world-wide as “UNESCO International Mother Language Day” (IMLD). It is observed to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Celebration of the Day was started in 1999. IMLD has its roots in the imposition of Urdu in the then East Pakistan, as National Language, by the Pakistan Government. Bengali speaking people of the then East Pakistan refused to accept Urdu Language, which was foreign to them.

On 21 February, 1952 there was a massive public protest in Dhaka, violating curfew order, demanding Bengali Language to be the National Language of East Pakistan. In Police firing on the protest march, five student protesters had died. After independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, a group of Bangladeshi started giving efforts in a sustained manner to commemorate 21 February internationally and they succeeded in 1999, when UNESCO agreed to observe IMLD each year.

Bengali speaking people of West Bengal want to enjoy the reflected glory from Bangladesh on 21 February on a wrong premise. Since Bengali language is common in both Bangladesh and West Bengal, the Bongs try to derive glory from the sacrifices made in Dhaka in upholding the honour of Bengali language.

Very surprisingly, these Bongs are oblivious of the fact that on 19 May 1961, eleven Bengali youths (Kamala, Sachin, Hitesh, Sukamal, Kumud, Sunil, Biren, Satyen, Tarani, Chandi and Kanai) gave their lives in Police firing in Silchar town of Bark valley, Assam, for protecting Bengali language against the imposition of Assamese as state language in the valley. The Bongs are so stupid that instead of feeling pride about their own 11 language martyrs, they get hyper on 21 February each year. In the process Bongs look comical like “Begani Shaadi Mey Abdullah Dewana”.

Despite the commonality, the Bengali language of Bangladesh and West Bengal is not identical. There is a wide difference in the usage of vocabulary. While in West Bengal, Bengali language mostly uses the words derived from Sanskrit, in Bangladesh it uses a big proportion of words of foreign Arabic, Turkic and Farsi origin. In West Bengal only those foreign words are used which have no Sanskrit-derived equivalents. But in Bangladesh, use of foreign origin words is very liberal and connects to Islamic identity of the people.

In Bengali language of West Bengal, foreign Turkic words like Toshok (mattress), Daroga (Police officer), Top (cannon) and Chakar (servant) etc. are used as these have no Bengali equivalents. Similarly, some Arabic and Farsi words are also used. But in the case of the Bengali language of Bangladesh, many additional foreign words like Paani (water-Jal), Ammi (mother-Maa), Gasol (bath-Snan), Gost (meat-Mangsho) and Dawat (invitation-Nimontran) etc. are used which have commonly used Bengali equivalents from Sanskrit, as shown in Italics in the parentheses.

Many Bengali Muslim intellectuals of East Pakistan also gave a determined effort to use Arabic alphabets for writing Bengali during 1947-48. The mode then changed in favour of Roman alphabets and continued as late as 1957-58. Their main intention was to dissociate Bengali language from Hindu influence in Islamic East Pakistan. So, from the beginning of East Pakistan days, Bengali Muslims there had the intention to de-Hinduise Bengali language in East Pakistan. Bongs should not forget this part of history too.

Over the years and decades Bengali language of East Pakistan and Bangladesh incorporated more and more Arabic, Turkic and Farsi words as it enhanced their Muslim identity and differentiate their Bengali language from the Bengali language used by the Hindus of West Bengal. Incidentally, under cultural influence, a large section of Muslims of West Bengal follow their Hindu brothers and speak Bengali language of the state.

Languages are ever changing. Languages keep on changing with passage of time and as per the needs of the society. There is no harm if the Bengali language of West Bengal and Bangladesh takes different courses and progress in their own ways. It had started so long back too. But unnecessary attachment of Bongs with Bangladesh in general, and 21 February in particular, is only confusing the situation in West Bengal.

Hyper-excitement of Bongs with Bangladesh and 21 February is beyond all sane comprehension. This romanticization of Bangladesh and 21 February by the Bongs, particularly the refugee descendants, is highly deceptive and self-defeating. Bongs create the tower of ‘love Bangladesh’ obsession on the basis of some anecdotal incidences and selective inter-actions. In earlier days, their grandparents used to lament “Aamaago Ekda Deysh Aachhilo” (we had an ancestral land).

Unlike India and Pakistan, Bangladeshi Muslims do not use the word ‘Kafir’ for Hindu Bengalis. They use the word ‘Malaun’ for them, meaning accursed. Bangladesh, which got independence from Pakistan on the basis of race and language has been undergoing fast Islamization to be another Pakistan. Burqa, beard, skull-cap, Pajama above-ankle and long shirt below-knee are commonplace in Bangladesh now, which were rare fifty years back. The Islamization of Bangladesh has not only influenced the dress-code, but Bengali language also.

This article is written for the fact that on 16 February 2023, that is, five days before IMLD on 21 February, the statue of Rabindranath Tagore was destroyed in the campus of Dhaka University. Rabindranath Tagore has been the tallest figure in Bengali literature. But his Hindu religious identity could cause extreme hatred among Bangladeshi Muslims.

Bangladeshi Muslims are Muslims first. This was the reason why their grandfathers created Islamic East Pakistan in 1947. They have been aggressively Muslims always. Islam is their state religion. But the stupid Bongs refuse to understand these facts and love to remain in the delusion of “Bengali-ness” of Bangladeshi Muslims.

A large section of Bangladeshi youth now aligns more with Pakistan, for commonality of religion, than with Hindu-majority India. Religion plays the most dominant role in the identity of Bangladeshi. Language and race are all secondary to them and can be shaped by Islam alone. So, Bongs need to grow-up.


About the author: Jadabeswar Bhattacharjee served in the Government of India and retired as Higher Administrative Grade Officer after 35 years of service. After retirement from the service, he developed interest in writing on contentious issues and topics. His published books are (1) Politically incorrect Point of View, (2) Politics, Bong and Faith, (3) The Alternative Narrative, (4) The West Bengal Saga and (5) Political Islam and India.

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